We have officially surpassed the midpoint of summer. Sadly, just five weeks stand between us and the start of new faculty orientation, faculty meetings, and the slow build up to the start of the year. Between now and then, we will enjoy sunshine, warm temperatures, and regular swims in Elbow Pond. We will read, journal, and listen to all the podcasts we don’t have time for during the school year. We will take time to reflect on our work as educators and our role in influencing young people’s lives at Proctor.
Irrational fears are often rooted in an experience, a moment in time when our innocence is lost or our perspective shifts drastically. I’m terrified of sailing. It is an irrational fear born of a family sail aboard our 17 foot day sailer as a young child. I don’t remember the specifics, but simply recall the sensation of lost control, of tipping on edge, of feeling helpless. For years after my father worked to help me overcome this fear, attempting to teach me how to sail, how to manage gusts of wind, explaining ad nauseam there is always an escape plan in an emergency as long as you are prepared for it.
A slight breeze, blue skies, and temperatures in the low-70s; Saturday was only the sixth or seventh sunny day we’ve had since March. For once this spring, the weather matched the occasion (it snowed at Prom a few weeks ago), and as the 115 members of the Class of 2019 gathered in Alice’s Garden prior to Commencement, every face was wearing a smile.
In the midst of celebrating the end of the school year, student accomplishments, the performance of the spring musical, art show, and saying goodbye to retiring faculty and staff, we pause to honor the life's work of former faculty member and legendary coach, Spencer "Spence" Wright P'72, '75 who died at the age of 94 on May 14, 2019.
We have a choice as an independent school:
- Create a facade that we are a perfect school community in order to attract prospective families and hope they don’t see our flaws too soon. OR
- Present openly the challenges that accompany educating 370 adolescents in a boarding school setting within an incredibly competitive boarding school market.
Few moments in life will match the excitement of being eight years old and diving into the imaginary world of Hogwarts alongside Harry, Ron, and Hermione. As I read The Sorting Hat chapter aloud to my son last night, I thought about what it would be like if we tried to categorize each student into a dorm or group based on their personality, ambitions, and character upon their arrival at Proctor. How would that classification define their Proctor experience? Would it enhance or detract from their journey through high school? Do we subconsciously do this at Proctor?
Over the past few months, prospective families have navigated the admissions process at a number of independent schools. While each stage of the admissions process sparks important questions, the most difficult decision for each prospective student occurs during these last days before we ask families to submit contracts for the 2019-2020 school year.
Over the past couple of weeks several students received their second “major” violation, resulting in dismissal from school. It’s been disruptive. Disruptive for the students, their families, and the community. Students who have been dismissed find themselves on the outside of Proctor looking in, and for many it is a particularly clarifying moment: invulnerability dissipates, self reflection kicks in, relationships are reassessed. Students who are dismissed can access a process that allows them to “appeal” the decision, to request that the door to the community be reopened one last time. Not all request an appeal, but most do. Is it too lenient to let students request what is essentially a third chance?